Parenting with Fear or Forgiveness

playing in snowToday I was blessed by a sermon on how Matthew 5:7 specifically relates to our relationships.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

It is difficult for us to forgive each other because we love poorly. (Ouch, that struck a nerve.) We do not love unconditionally as Christ does. I wrote a post about that here. But diffing deeper and taking it a step further is even more difficult.

Loving unconditionally includes forgiving. It certainly has its challenges. My empathy for another adult is easier to find sometimes. Maybe because I’ve been there… failed, flawed, sinful & shamed. For my children is does not seem to come as easy at times. Surprised? I guess I am.

When they were younger is was easier to be patient, but as they grow up, it seems my patience fades. I tell myself it is because they are old enough to know better. But it that the truth? It certainly is a handy excuse, but I don’t think so. So why?

Is it harder for me to remember being that age? To remember my need for unconditional love and approval. My desire for forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness that Our Father gives us.

I think about this deeply today. I guess the only thing I can grasp is that it is born of fear. Fear that they will make the same mistakes I did. That the error of their ways will bring them pain and shame as it did me. Fear that their mistakes will become their legacy, thus my legacy.

It is not pride that gets me. After things I have been a part of, there is no pride here. But it is a fear that their lives will bring pain to them that is not necessary. A continuation of a vicious cycle that is hard to break. That is the fear of legacy.

But, isn’t it this same fear that caused my mother to find it difficult to show me unconditional love and forgiveness. And isn’t it odd that the feelings of shame and being unlovable caused me to act out, seeking love in other, unhealthy, ways. I know that she loved me, that she felt accountable, and guilty that she caused my hardships. But it just part of an unhealthy pattern that we tend to perpetuate in our families. It is no one’s fault. It just is. We tend to do what we know. Thus the cycle continues. But is there a way to stop it?

Being a single mother, has an incredible, overbearing level of GUILT and FEAR. You try to do twice as much to make up for the lack of a “normal family” environment with a mom and a dad. Parenting out of fear seems to be a natural state. So I have seen the above cycle played out in my own family, by me.

I am harder on my daughter than I am my son. I have known this for a while. I rationalized it because she is more mature, more intuitive and more like me. My guilt and fear of her following in my footsteps is incomprehensible. So I am harder on her to try to make her more aware, make her better. (Wow, seeing it in black and white, makes me laugh. It is preposterous!) But if I love her or discipline her out of fear, will I not being doing the same thing and continuing the cycle?

However, is it possible I can put fear aside, put my faith in God, and begin to love and forgive as He does? Won’t that be better? Surely, it must! It just may give them less of a reason to run away from the love and safety of home to someone or something else.

I am not naive. I realize it won’t be perfect. But isn’t it worth a try to parent with forgiveness. I think so.